Sometimes, organizations seeking proposals for the development of their web site will receive an offer that includes a Photoshop composition (comp in graphical lingo). This is done to give the potential customer an idea of what the site will look like and it is an opportunity to demonstrate the talent of the vendor.
Those who receive the proposals, and who are usually not web professionals, appreciate these comps. They are something concrete that they can evaluate. The winning proposal will often be the one with a cost close to the planned budget and with the most interesting composition.
Not so fast! These comps are dangerous. Because of their sheer existence, they become what is expected by the client and what needs to be delivered by the vendor. Often, this prevents the analysis of more promising options. Tell me. What is the real value of this comp that was designed before the definition of the information architecture and the site navigation?
What to Do with Comps?
When looking at the proposals, the evaluation committee must realize that these comps demonstrate the talent of the artistic director of the vendor. This talent is probably not the most important contribution to obtain a profitable web site. It is preferable to put these comps aside (or recycle them) and analyze the more important elements of the proposal. These are the development methodology, the experience of the vendor’s team and the project management. If the web is not your expertise, consider using the services of an independent web consultant to help you evaluate the proposals. Better yet, use that consultant to prepare the request for proposal (RFP).
Once the winning vendor is chosen, make sure that he will understand that the comp is not the target but that it was simply a very rough first draft. Your team will also need to understand that the site to be delivered will probably look drastically different from the comp.